Want to Attend an Ivy League School? Read this First.

As more students apply, admission at top colleges has become increasingly challenging.

Want to Attend an Ivy League School? Read this First.

In fall 2019, the average of all applicants who were admitted to Ivy League schools was 7%. All other National Universities have an average acceptance rate of 65.5% in fall 2019. Applicants who apply early to Ivy League schools are admitted more often than regular applicants. What separates the early applicants is that they tend to have more competitive credentials than those who submit their applications later, according to Ivy League admissions officials.

Early admission disclaimers are provided on undergraduate admissions websites at some Ivy League schools. For example, Brown University’s disclaimer reads:

“Our pool of early applicants tends to include a very high proportion of exceptionally talented students and a higher rate of admission for Early Decision applicants reflects that phenomenon. It does not imply an automatic advantage for all early candidates. We admit Early Decision applicants only when we are confident that we would offer them admission as a Regular Decision applicant.”

Dartmouth College is another ivy League school that has a disclaimer posted on its undergraduate admissions website that reads:

“Keep in mind that the published higher percentage of applicants accepted early is somewhat misleading because it includes recruited Division 1 athletes, whose credentials have been reviewed in advance,” the website states. “With recruited athletes removed from the Early Decision numbers, the statistical advantage isn’t as large.”

Every applicant to every Ivy League institution is assigned an Academic Index (AI) in order to ensure close academic compatibility among admitted athletes and non-athletes in each freshman class and at every Ivy League college. This Academic Index involves four computations: (1) the individual applicant, (2) the entire campus, (3) each team, and (4) all recruited athletes.

An Individual AI combines equally class rank, best combined SAT Reasoning Test scores, and the two highest SAT Subject Test scores. The highest possible AI is 240; a perfect 80 for each of the three criteria. A recruited athlete must have a minimum AI of 171 in order to be admitted to an Ivy League school.

The Campus AI is the average of all students on campus, which varies slightly from college to college, but probably no more than ten points across the entire group. Harvard, Princeton, and Yale are thought to have the highest Campus AI at approximately 220; Cornell is generally considered to be the lowest around 210 because of its three state schools that are sponsored.

The Team AI in a particular sport (the average of every Individual AI of each admitted athlete) must, in general, be within one standard deviation of the Campus AI. Every admitted athlete with a low Individual AI must be offset with another with a higher Individual AI. To accomplish this balance, every team has an annual “quota” and every athlete within that group is assigned to one of four bands on his or her Individual AI.

Band 4 athletes are the most easily admitted, because their academic profile is at or above the Campus AI. Band 3 athletes, those one standard deviation or less below the Campus AI, are also in a relatively good position. Band 2 athletes are between one and two standard deviations below the Campus AI, so anyone admitted in this band must be balanced by a high Band 3 or Band 4 athlete. Admission of a low Band 2 athlete is more difficult. Band 1 athletes, more than two standard deviations below the Campus AI but with an Individual AI of 171 or above, are the most difficult admits.”

The Athletic AI for all athletes in all sports must be within one standard deviation of the Campus AI. This allows each college some flexibility by allowing a few key revenue sports to have a team AI lower than one standard deviation but be collectively offset by others with a Team AI less than one standard deviation away from the Campus AI. Some examples of these sports are fencing, golf, squash, and tennis.

Nonathletes with similar or slightly better academic credentials are less likely to be accepted into an Ivy League school than aspiring student athletes. The eight Ivy league schools offer an early admissions program, but five out of the eight have binding early decision programs that require students who apply early to commit to attend if they are accepted. The other three Ivy League schools have non-binding early action programs that allow students to apply to other colleges even if they are admitted early. However, these three schools have restrictive early action programs, meaning that there are certain limits in terms of how and where else the early applicants could also apply early.

Applicants typically need to have high test scores and top-notch grades to be accepted at an Ivy League school. The average SAT evidence-based reading and writing score among freshmen at Ivy Leagues was almost 732 out of 800, while the average math score was about 761 out of 800. For the ACT, the average score was just under 34 out of 36.

Applicants could benefit from looking beyond these Ivy League schools to less selective colleges that align better with their career and academic interests. Ivy Leagues are potential reach schools for most college hopefuls. There are plenty of highly rated selective schools that are not Ivy League.

If you are interested in applying to an Ivy League school, you can explore the chart that includes important statistics to help you prepare for the admissions process in the link provided below.

An Ivy league graduate earns as much as 39% more than those who went to second-tier schools. Although the median salary for an Ivy League graduate is $70,000 compared to a non-Ivy league graduate which is $34,000, ten years after starting school, the cost of attending and Ivy League school can also cost four times as much as a state school.

Those who graduate from an Ivy League school tend to afford benefits that are not easily gained by attending a non-Ivy League school. Ivy League graduates have a better opportunity of tapping into a larger alumni network that may have personal contacts at companies that they might be evaluating. Although education matters, the way a person relates to customers, employees, and others is more important than his or her school of choice. Performance is far more important than education.


Choosing an Ivy League degree versus a state school comes down to a student’s projected career path, the importance of networking in their field, and personal preferences.